Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had a stern warning Tuesday for Cubans and Haitians thinking of escaping the ongoing unrest in both countries by sailing to the US: Don’t even think about it.
“The time is never right to attempt migration by sea,” Mayorkas said during a news conference. “To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking. Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.”
Mayorkas, whose own family fled Cuba for the United States following Fidel Castro’s rise to power, added that any would-be refugees intercepted by the Coast Guard or any other law enforcement agency would be returned to their country of origin. Those who could provide what Mayorkas called a “well-founded fear of persecution or torture” would be referred to other countries for resettlement.
“They will not enter the United States,” the DHS secretary added.
According to Mayorkas, 20 people have lost their lives in recent weeks attempting to traverse the Straits of Florida and the Caribbean Sea.
“Migrants who do attempt to enter the United States by sea put their lives at incredible risk,” he said. “The waters of the Straits of Florida and the Caribbean are dangerous, especially now as we have entered hurricane season. People will die. The transit is dangerous and unforgiving.”
Mayorkas added that DHS had “not observed a surge in efforts to take to the seas”. However, he noted elsewhere in his briefing that 470 Cubans had been intercepted since October of last year, nearly ten times the 49 that were stopped between October 2019 and September 2020.
Haiti descended into chaos last week following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his private residence. A total of 26 former Colombian soldiers are suspected in the killing, and 23 have been arrested, along with three Haitians. Léon Charles, head of Haiti’s National Police, has said five suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed.
Among those arrested is 62-year-old Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian physician, church pastor and Florida businessman who once expressed a desire to lead his country in a YouTube video and has denounced the country’s leaders as corrupt.
In the aftermath of Moïse’s death, no fewer than three politicians have put in a claim to run the country, with no immediate prospect of an election to break the deadlock.
On Sunday, Cubans took to the streets in a rare show of defiance against the country’s communist government, chanting slogans like “Freedom!” “Enough!” and “Unite!” Authorities later shut down internet service in an effort to prevent images of the demonstrations from spreading.
“I understood what it meant for my father to lose everything that he had built for his young family,” Mayorkas said Tuesday. “We stand with the people of Cuba.”
With Post wires